June 2014 | ISSUE 12
Strong start to a new research collaboration in metabolic diseases

By Juliana Phang, Research Assistant &
Professor Walter Wahli, Professor of Metabolic Disease

The inaugural Joint Collaborative Research Seminar between LKCMedicine, Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and the Toxalim Unit at the French Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA) was held from 22 to 24 April 2014 in Toulouse, France.

Visitors and hosts

The seminar kick-started a strong new collaboration between LKCMedicine and INRA Toulouse to promote the exchange of knowledge and expertise between research staff and students. It was chaired by LKCMedicine Professor of Metabolic Diseases Walter Wahli as laureate of the Chaire d’Excellence Pierre de Fermat of the Région Midi-Pyrénées, with Toxalim INRA’s Dr Hervé Guillou as the co-chair.

The prestigious Pierre de Fermat rotating research chairs are funded by the Midi-Pyrénées region of South West France with the aim of attracting foreign researchers covering all fields of knowledge to the region’s higher research institutes. Created in 2004, these chairs have been awarded to 33 researchers from around the world in fields ranging from computer science and economy to medicine and management.

Building on existing collaborations with the team of Hervé Guillou at INRA Toulouse, the proposed research will address several areas of need, including gene-nutrient interactions in obesity and its complications (fatty liver disease, diabetes and dyslipidemia), with especially strong groups working on the liver, intestine and the microbiota. The possibility of collaborations within a PhD programme will also be explored.

The two-and-a-half day seminar was attended by 11 representatives from LKCMedicine and the School of Biological Sciences (SBS), and about 35 principal investigators and researchers from Toulouse. Professor Michèle Marin, President of INRA, was the Guest-of-Honour. During her speech, she introduced INRA, which comprises close to 1,400 people, and enthusiastically encouraged strong collaborations between NTU and INRA.

From left to right: Prof Wahli (left) and Prof Pettersson giving their talks

From left to right: Asst Prof Ali giving his talk; discussion with Prof Marin and LKCMedicine researchers

Apart from Prof Wahli, participants included Professor Sven Pettersson, Assistant Professor Wang Xiaomeng, Assistant Professor Yusuf Ali, Dr Tan Chek Kun, Dr Ng Ser Sue and Dr Kalina Duszka from LKCMedicine; and Associate Professor Tan Nguan Soon and his PhD students, Mr Sng Ming Keat and Mr Jeremy Chan from SBS.

Joining the co-chair Dr Guillou, the speakers from Toulouse included Professor Philippe Valet, Dr Cédric Dray, Dr Jean-Philippe Pradère, Dr Cédric Moro, Professor Nathalie Vergnolle, Dr Lucile Garidou, Professor Vassilia Theodorou, Dr Françoise Guéraud, Dr Alexandra Montagner, Dr Laila Lakhal, Dr Sandrine Ellero, Dr Laurence Payrastre, Dr Nicolas Loiseau and Dr Valentin Barquissau.

Experts from various research fields gave stimulating talks on topics such as metabolism, immunology, toxicology, oncology and microbiota.

The audience was also introduced to the research, organisation and facilities at Toxalim by Professor Bernard Salles, the head of the Joint Research Unit (UMR) 1331, Toxalim. Dr Justine Bertrand-Michel introduced the lipidomic and metabolomics facility for applications in metabolism, pharmacology and toxicology, which offers full lipid profiling at affordable prices for academic institutions.

During the seminar, the researchers and PhD students also had the opportunity to present their work with the aim of attracting collaborations among each other. Each session was accompanied by intense and constructive questions from the audience. Through these sessions, researchers from LKCMedicine have managed to define collaborations with researchers from Toulouse on areas including the role of nutrient-gene interactions in circadian rhythm, liver steatosis and gut functions.
After the hard work was over, the participants from NTU enjoyed a guided city tour.

Representatives from LKCMedicine and SBS enjoying a guided city tour.

The visit was adjourned with a closing speech by Prof Wahli and everyone is looking forward to the second Joint Collaborative Research Seminar in Singapore in 2015.